Friday, September 04, 2020

Was Slavery America's First Culture War?

Politics today in America, and to a somewhat lesser extent elsewhere, has become a black hole that sucks away any hope of progress.

The device is commonly known as the 'culture war.' It's a repository where medical crises such as the Covid-19 pandemic, environmental emergencies such as the climate change catastrophe, and every conceivable sort of social malaise, can be shrink-wrapped in political quagmire and consigned to languish unaddressed, unresolved, suffocating.

I wonder if the slavery issue between the southern slave states and the abolitionist north was the first example of culture war in America. The Republic wasn't always of one mind before that. For example New England wasn't at all keen on  the American declaration of war on Britain in 1812 but that was a passing piffle.

Slavery, however, went to the cultural, economic, political, social, even religious disparities between North and South. It was intractable.  Lincoln fully appreciated the worsening danger when he warned that 'a house divided against itself cannot stand.'  As Lincoln predicted, civil war ensued when the Confederate States seceded from the Union and subsequently attacked Union forces within Fort Sumter.

Historians tell us that in the run-up to the attack on Fort Sumter the populations of both sides, north and south, were spoiling for a fight. For the south it was a war of liberation and independence. For the north it was a war to vanquish the rebels and preserve the Union.

The US today is said to be more deeply divided than at any time since the Civil War. The lines of division aren't nearly as clean cut. It's not one type of economy versus another. It isn't a neat territorial division. There is no Confederacy of secessionist states.  Yet the country remains divided on what are becoming irreconcilable differences.

Could the re-election of Donald Trump be a latter day Fort Sumter event?


Toby said...

I often think that the early colonists were the religious rejects (or escapees) of Europe. Some of them made it quite plain that they wanted their brand of religion as the basis for their colony and weren't very tolerant of other religions.

You have probably seen some version of this: "This map shows how the US really has 11 separate 'nations' with entirely different cultures"

I think there is something to this. Listening to Albertans and those from coastal BC they seem to come from different planets.

Trailblazer said...

Portland just had its 100th night of protest; something happening!
I am less sure that the US will have another civil war, #3.
It will and is decaying ,slowly but surely.
Empires do not disappear overnight , I'm Brit by birth and the Brits still have not got over losing the empire.
Trouble is when they fail they take others down with them or leave chaos.
Again, it's a good time for Canada to distance itself from the US.


The Disaffected Lib said...

Thanks for the link, Toby. A great graphic for my image collection. It's bizarre how we can consider land masses as enormous as the U.S., Canada and Russia to be homogenous whereas other regions are organized into much smaller entities reflecting ethnic, racial and linguistic differences. It worked for a while, the period of European settlement, but that's loosening.

As for the colonists, a good (and entertaining) read is Nancy Isenberg's "White Trash." It chronicles the 400 year history of America's indentured underclass.

The Disaffected Lib said...

TB, I think something is going to give should Trump be re-elected and the Repugs hold on to the Senate. Those who formerly served Trump are the most outspoken on what a second term could mean and they're fearful.

Yes, it is time for Canada to get serious about a realignment.

Owen Gray said...

Even if Trump is defeated, both sides will still be spoiling for a fight.